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COLUMBUS, Ohio The No. 35 Ohio State women’s tennis team (8-6, 2-0 Big Ten) will wrap up the 2009 non-conference schedule against Utah (6-4, 0-0 Mountain West) Monday at 2 p.m. EST at the Darling Tennis Center in Las Vegas, Nev., the home of the ATP Tennis Channel Open.

After opening the 2008-09 campaign with a 1-3 mark in dual matches, the Utes have rebounded to win five of their last six, including three wins over ranked opponents. All of their losses have come to teams ranked in the Top-35. The Buckeyes and Utes share two common opponents, No. 5 Notre Dame and No. 20 Virginia, both of which beat Ohio State and Utah.

Freshman standout Anastasia Putilina leads Utah in singles wins this season with 13, including seven wins at No. 1 singles. Junior Erin Monson has 11 wins, while freshman Lexi Provancha has picked up 10 wins. Monson and classmate Andrea Maughan have done well since assuming duties at No. 1 doubles, going 4-1.

The Buckeyes and Utes met for the only time 21 years ago, where Utah took home an 8-1 win in 1988. Ohio State head coach Chuck Merzbacher has faced off with Utah four times in his coaching career, all at Kansas, and won all four matches. Merzbacher is 7-4 all-time against opponents from the Mountain West conference.

KEEPING UP WITH THE TEAM
The Buckeyes leave Columbus Friday for Las Vegas and will stay in the Excalibur hotel, right on the famed Las Vegas Strip. The team will leave Vegas Wednesday morning and fly to Chicago to catch a bus to Iowa City, where they will play Iowa in Big Ten action Friday, March 27. From there, the Buckeyes head north to Minneapolis to take on Minnesota Sunday, March 29, before flying back to Columbus to complete the 10- day trip.

Buckeye freshman Kelsey Haviland will be keeping track of the team’s progress throughout the trip on a running blog on OhioStateBuckeyes.com.

RISING UP
Angela DiPastina and Christina Keesey broke into the national rankings in doubles, making their debut as the No. 80 doubles team in the nation. Keesey and DiPastina, who won 22 matches together last season, are 7-3 this season, including a 5-1 mark at No. 1 this spring.

DOUBLES NO TROUBLE
The Buckeyes have been on a tear in paired play since shuffling the doubles lineup after the Virginia Tech match. Combined in the six matches since, Ohio State has dropped only three doubles contests while picking up 15 wins. Each of the Buckeyes’ doubles teams, Angela DiPastina and Christina Keesey at No. 1, Julie Blackmore and Cami Hubbs at No. 2 and Kirsten Flower and Paloma Escobedo at No. 3, are 5-1 together this spring.

LEADERS OF THE PACK
Kirsten Flower leads the team in singles wins in 2008-09, posting 13 wins, including an 8-6 mark at No. 1 singles. Kelsey Haviland and Angela DiPastina have both won 11 matches, while Julie Blackmore has 10 and Cami Hubbs has nine.

Hubbs leads the team with 17 wins in doubles this season, while Blackmore, DiPastina and Christina Keesey all have 14 wins to their name in 2008-09.

THE RACE FOR THE BIG TEN TITLE
Ohio State is one of just four teams that is unbeaten in Big Ten conference play. No. 1 Northwestern holds a 4-0 mark in conference play, the 35th-ranked Buckeyes are 2-0, while both No. 19 Michigan and No. 72 Iowa are 1-0. Nine of the 11 Big Ten schools are ranked in the ITA Top 75, as only Penn State and Michigan State sit on the outside looking in.

FLOWER POWERED
Junior Kirsten Flower was named the Big Ten women’s tennis athlete of the week March 3 after her part in helping the 37th-rankedBuckeyes to a 6-1 win over conference-foe Penn State. The weekly laurel is the first for Flower as a Buckeye and the first for Ohio State since Cami Hubbs received the award in March 2008.

The 116th-ranked Flower defeated Monika Mical in straight sets, 6-4, 6-3 in No. 1 singles and paired with Paloma Escobedo to blank the Nittany Lions combo of Mical and Sarah Lotto, 8-0.

A graduate of Upper Arlington high school, Flower spent her freshman and sophomore years at Georgia Tech before transferring back to her hometown this past summer. She helped the Yellow Jackets to both the 2007 NCAA championship and the 2008 ITA Indoor championship, while also winning 47 career singles matches.

BUCKEYES BUMP BOILERMAKERS
Ohio State fought off a strong challenge from Big Ten foe Purdue and came out a winner, 4-3, at the Ohio State Varsity Tennis Center March 13.

The doubles point proved to be vital, and Christina Keesey and Angela DiPastina were winners for the fifth time in six matches at No. 1. Ohio State also picked up a win at No. 2 as well, with Julie Blackmore and Cami Hubbs getting an 8-4 win over Remi Martin and Jennifer Rabot. No. 3 doubles was never in question, as Kirsten Flower and Paloma Escobedo won their fifth straight doubles match, taking an 8-1 decision over Anna Dushkina and Tatiana Ganzha.

In singles, Flower took a decisive first set victory at No. 1 against Michelle Sammons on her way to a 6-2, 7-5 win. Keesey took a hard fought 7-5 first set win at No. 5, and then dropped Martin with relative ease in the second frame, winning the clinching match, 7-5, 6-1.

Blackmore proved to be too much at the No. 6 spot for Dushkina, running out to a 5-0 first set lead and a then a 4-2 second set lead on her way to a 6-1, 6-3 win over the Boilermaker freshman.

Hubbs, Escobedo and DiPastina each lost in their singles matches, which all came after the Buckeyes had clinched the team victory.

BULLS TOO MUCH FOR OHIO STATE
Despite winning the doubles point, Ohio State lost to South Florida, 5-2, in a non-conference match in Tampa, Fla., March 8 in their first outdoor match of the spring season for the team. The loss halted the Buckeye’s season-high four-match win streak.

Angela DiPastina and Christina Keesey won their fourth match of the spring at No. 1 doubles, dropping Irene Reheberger and Lauren Shumate, 8-6. Kirsten Flower and Paloma Escobedo also won, taking an 8-6 decision over Iciri Rai and Natalia Guevara at No. 3. Julie Blackmore and Cami Hubbs were defeated at No. 2, falling in a close one to Allyn Mueller and Jessica Zok, 9-8 (1).

The Buckeyes were not as successful in singles, losing in five of six matches. Keesey was the lone Ohio State winner, taking a straight-set 6-2, 6-4 win against Shumate at No. 6 singles. Blackmore retired from her match at No. 5, trailing in the third set to Mueller, 4-6, 6-4, 4-3. Hubbs won her first set, 6-1, over Guevara, but could not close the match out and lost 1-6, 6-1, 6-3.

Flower lost in No. 1 singles, 6-0, 6-4, to Reheberger while Escobedo was defeated by Zok at No. 2 singles, 6-1, 6-4. DiPastina was also beaten, losing 6-1, 6-1, to Rai at No. 3.

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